Officer cited for 'discourteous' conduct

New audit includes incident in which Palo Alto officer swore at pedestrians, ran stop signs

A Palo Alto police officer faced disciplinary action after he swore at a pedestrian at a crosswalk, refused to disclose his name and proceeded to run several stop signs, according to a report from the city's independent police auditor.

The biannual report, which the city released Wednesday afternoon, covers the first half of 2013 and describes an episode in which an officer engaged in a profane exchange with a man and a woman at an intersection. The officer, who was reportedly on his way to investigate a report of an assault, stopped his patrol car "several feet into the intersection," which a man and woman were preparing to cross. The man raised his arms in a "what the heck" motion and said something to the officer about the crosswalk, according to the auditor, who reviewed the audio recording of the incident.

"The officer's shouted reply is obviously discourteous and includes the use of profanity," the report from auditor Michael Gennaco states.

The pedestrian then allegedly asked the officer for his name, after which time the officer drove away.

The man involved in the exchange called the police station to complain about a "rude officer," the report states. Later, the officer himself called his sergeant to notify him that a complaint might be forthcoming.

To make matters worse, a video recording inside the patrol car showed the officer "failing to stop at two signs and violating the right-of-way of other cars by making a left turn," according to the auditor's report.

During the department's internal investigation, the officer "admitted to the allegations of discourtesy and profanity" that were captured in the recording and admitted that he was "driving unsafely with his emergency equipment activated."

"He said he immediately reported the encounter with a man and woman to his supervisors because he realized he had made a mistake and wanted to inform his supervisors as soon as possible," the report stated. "The officer said that he would not repeat such actions in the future."

In its internal review, the police department found that the officer had "violated policy regarding rude and discourteous treatment, had engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer, and had violated policy by engaging in unsafe or improper driving."

"As a result of the findings, the allegations were sustained and the Department took corrective action in keeping with its disciplinary protocols," Gennaco's report stated.

The auditor agreed with the department's repose, though he had one quibble with the protocol. Before interviewing the officer, the department allowed him to view the recordings that captured the vehicle. This, according to the audit, "obviously had the potential to influence the recollection and statements of the auditor." Gennaco recommends that in the future officers who are subjects of complaints "not be afforded the opportunity to review audio and video recordings of the event that is being investigated prior to being interviewed."

The audit noted that the issue of when to review is one that has fostered considerable debate, both in Palo Alto and in other jurisdictions.

"PAPD's awareness of the relevant pros and cons is encouraging, and we hope they will continue in their efforts to formulate clear and effective policy," Gennaco's report states.


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Posted by streets are for cars
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 9, 2014 at 10:18 am

[Post removed.]

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Posted by Local Reisdent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 9, 2014 at 11:27 am

It is always important that police are held to the highest standards. they are afforded tremendous power to enforce the laws as they see fit, and as they judge the public's behavior all the time, their behavior must be impeccable.
I know that they are human and can be as frustrated as the rest of us, but they enforce the most minor infractions, that sometimes have long term effects on the individual. they should not be allowed any behavior other than perfect.

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Posted by Streets are for everyone
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2014 at 11:29 am

Everyone, even a driver, is a pedestrian sometimes, and pedestrians must use streets. Bicyclists are required by LAW to use the streets. Many people cannot drive because they don't have a license--either due to their age or some physical infirmity.

Streets are for everyone. Please share our public streets with courtesy and law abiding civility.

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Posted by citizen
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 9, 2014 at 11:40 am

About time they were called on behavior. Most are very polite but some are churlish and even abusive to our young adults, making Palo Alto seem barbaric and unintelligent.

Like this comment
Posted by Hermia
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 9, 2014 at 11:53 am

Cop yells at pedestrian, immediately turns himself in.
I adore Palo Alto.

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Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 9, 2014 at 11:55 am

Thanks to the Palo Alto resident for notifying the police chief regarding the officer's misbehavior and rude conduct.

When I first moved to Palo Alto, two years ago, my husband was driving our car and I sat in the passenger side seat when he ran a redlight near intersection E. Meadow & Alma. There were two police officers in one patrol car, and both got out of their car to approach our vehicle. The officer dealing with my husband was courteous, where as the other one who approached me became aggressive because he asked for my personal identification and I said no. I had done nothing wrong, and the police officer was insinuating I must be a criminal because I did not provide him with my information. The assault on my rights pursued and in the end I stood my ground, but with much resistance from the police officer.

After much research, I know I should have filed a written complain to internal affairs. If this happens to anyone, be sure to get as much information as possible, badge number, name , unit number and license plate if possible. Write down the time, date and location of traffic stop.

I'm wondering if it too late to act...

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Posted by Abe Mitchell
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jan 9, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Laughable really, a policeman swears at a pedestrian and the policeman is cautioned. Yet were the boot on the other foot the pedestrian would walk away without even a word of caution. Rich!!!

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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2014 at 1:55 pm

The in-car video showed that the officer ran stop signs, for no legitimate reason. Any reason he shouldn't be issued traffic citations? Doesn't the same law that requires the rest of us to stop at stop signs apply to police officers too?

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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 9, 2014 at 2:53 pm

This is far worse than the taser cop, who should get a commendation for stopping a bicycle thief.

Like this comment
Posted by Yo Momma
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 9, 2014 at 4:53 pm

How about posting the names of the officers in these "news"?

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Posted by bill g
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 9, 2014 at 8:57 pm

"...The officer, who was reportedly on his way to investigate a report of an assault, stopped his patrol car "several feet into the intersection,..."
"...that he was "driving unsafely with his emergency equipment activated."

I thought when emergency equipment was activated, it meant that the officer had the right of way and that people were to clear the road, not wave at the officer. And the officer can proceed through a stop sign in such case.

Seems to me we don't have enough information to pass judgement either way.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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